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REBECCA

Director: ALFRED HITCHCOCK

U.S.A. • 1940 • BLACK AND WHITE • 130 MIN • NEW 35MM PRINT


‘LAST NIGHT I DREAMT I WENT TO MANDERLEY AGAIN . . . ‘ THESE WORDS, SPOKEN AT THE FILM’S BEGINNING BY ITS NAMELESS HEROINE (JOAN FONTAINE), DEFTLY SET THE TONE FOR THE BEGUILING AND NIGHTMARISH SUSPENSE THAT DISTINGUISHES ALFRED HITCHCOCK’S FIRST AMERICAN MOVIE.
Made for Gone With the Wind producer David O Selznick and based, like Jamaica Inn and The Birds, on a novel by Daphne Du Maurier, Rebecca finds Hitch relishing the superior resources available in Hollywood and bringing all his narrative expertise to the story of a naive, rather mousy young woman (Joan Fontaine) swept off her feet by the whirlwind courtship of handsome aristocrat Maxim de Winter Lawrence Olivier), a widower met in Monte Carlo. After their wedding, he takes her to Manderley, his lovely but troubled estate in Cornwall— troubled because the place, like its owner, seems haunted by the presence of his late wife Rebecca, whose ferociously devoted maid Mrs Danvers (Judith Anderson) does little to conceal her hostility towards the new mistress of the house. A beautifully nuanced study in guilt and anxieties about sex, money and class, the film seamlessly interweaves strands from the detective mystery, romantic melodrama and Gothic horror film, with Manderley becoming a character in itself, as unsettling and mysterious as Olivier’s brooding de Winter. Many of Hollywood’s best-known British actors contribute to the memorably atmospheric evocation of Cornwall and its high society, though none did so much to establish the film’s enduring iconic status as Anderson, genuinely terrifying as the obsessive and resentful Danvers.— Geoff Andrew.

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